Silver Lake Park turned into an outdoor laboratory last week, when six Gateway Technical College students and their instructor converged onto the Kenosha County Park, where they learned proper tree removal techniques.

The Nov. 14 project, which involved removing six dead ash trees, was a collaboration between the school and the Kenosha County Parks system.

Lee Colony, Gateway’s marketing and communications specialist, said the school needed to find a partnership as part of its new Arboriculture/Urban Foresty program.

Gateway is one of two technical colleges in Wisconsin to offer the program.

The partnership gives Gateway students an opportunity to receive hands-on experience and forestry training, he added.

Kenosha County Parks Director Matt Collins, who oversaw the project, said the partnership is a first.

“This is a new program through Gateway Technical College,” said Collins, who was approached by Gateway instructor Aaron Schauer about the collaboration.

Cary Shepherd, a chainsaw expert, instructs students on how to safely remove a tree.

“We marked the that weren’t too difficult to take down in a classroom environment.”

Along with Schauer, he received additional support from two experts, national chainsaw safety and operation trainer Cary Shepherd of Husqvarna and district operations Dave Schneider of SavATree.

The two industry experts, according to Colony, were on hand to teach appropriate cleanup skills and safe use of a chainsaw.

Unlike regular operations, the students took the time to understand the process, Collins said.

“Every student was not only getting a hands-on experience, there was a lot of question and answer parts of this project,” he said.

“The instructors took the time to educate their students on the proper techniques of tree removal,” Collins added.

Schauer, meanwhile, said in a Kenosha County press release the partnership offered students an opportunity to explore areas beyond the Gateway campus.

“We really can’t be cutting down the trees on our campus, so having the ability to remove dead trees from the park is a win-win,” he said. “It helps the students gain valuable experience in their education and career, as well as give back to the community.”

The valuable experience also cut costs for the Kenosha County Parks system, said Collins, who said tree removal comes at a hefty price.

“If you have to look at the perspective of a private property owner, usually a tree of that size costs over $1,000 to remove from private property,” Collins said.

As the students completed their efforts, Collins hopes to see them return for another education session, which he said could involve trees infected with Emerald Ash borer.

“We would love to continue this relationship with them in the future,” he said.

Additionally, Collins said there are more trees other than Ash at the eight Kenosha County Parks.

“It is hard to put a number on quantity, per se, because we have more than just Ash trees,” Collins said. “We do have the Emerald ash borer infected trees, but we have other trees that are just at the end of their lifespan.”

Gateway’s contribution is the latest organization to contribute to the Kenosha County Parks system.

In September, employees from Wilmot Mountain went Silver Lake Park, where they conducted restoration and beautification efforts at the park.

“Our Kenosha County Parks system is always looking for creative partnerships, and we’re glad that we can collaborate with Gateway not only to help manage our tree population, but also to host hands-on instruction for their students,” Collins said.